Driving in Ireland is really easy. The roads are well signed, they drive on the left and cute, colourful villages make for great pit stops and photo opportunities. (But you will find random round-abouts in the middle of highways.)
Ireland is a small island. At its widest it is only 275km, so theoretically you could cut west from Dublin to Galway in two hours. Except you wouldn’t. You’d take the long way round and spend a week exploring. This roadie is only 4 nights and was too fast to really do so many gorgeous places justice. I’d take at least 7 nights next time.
So with my GPS from home, preloaded with UK maps, and the recommendations of friends ringing in our ears, my cousin Kate and I set off on our whirlwind tour.
In Dublin we loved Temple Bar, which isn’t a single bar but a neighbourhood of hopping bars with live music to tap your toes to all night. It’s very touristy, but as we were tourists, we loved it! Plenty of places to choose from for shopping, dining, drinking and making much merriment.
I also did a photography tour. This had been on my wish list for ages, so it was great to finally make it happen. My tutor allowed me to pick my location and time frame, so I decided to learn how to capture the sights of the melee of busy Grafton Road. It’s a pedestrianised street in Dublin edged in shops and a magnet for buskers. Here’s my photo blog of what I saw – and what I learned!
Oh and you can’t possibly stay in Dublin and not visit the Guinness Factory and learn how to pour a pint (in 119.5 seconds!) We found the Hop on Hop off bus excellent to 1) get our bearings, and 2) to get around easily from attraction to attraction.
When our roadie finally started we only got 20-minutes down the road before we stopped for morning tea at the stunning grounds of Powerscourt Estate. Allow enough time fora scone and jam on the veranda, a browse through their gift shop, and ideally an extra hour to roam the gardens that sprawl as far as Sugarloaf Mountain in the distance. I regret not having time for the gardens and would love to have wandered through the pet cemetery to pay respects to ponies, cows and Doodles Chow who have been lying here for years.
Pillow time: Gabriel House
I only included Cork because this is near Waterford, where the Waterford Crystal factory is and I thought I’d pick up a cheap memento.
I was wrong on the “cheap”, but touring the factory and meeting the guys who train for eight years to be Waterford cutters is fascinating.
Two nights here would be better (considering we checked into our B&B at dinner time) to be able to browse the shops, visit museums, ring the bells at St Anne’s Church, shop at the English Market (the oldest of its kind in Europe), and have dinner at a traditional Irish pub.
However I had some kissing to do, so we shot off bright and early the next morning to Blarney Castle, just 10 minutes away.
Pillow time: George Hotel
On our way to Limerick we went via cute-as-a-button Dingle. Sadly the rain was coming in sideways so we found a pub (it’s never too hard) and had a yummy lunch before leaving Dingle to the elements and heading two hours to Limerick.
Limerick dates back to the year 812 and is built on the River Shannon with both an historic and a new part. Fans of author Frank McCourt can take an Angela’s Ashes walking tour and The Locke Bar is a really nice waterfront pub serving traditional Irish music and hearty fare, so I’d suggest heading there of an evening.
4. The Cliffs of Moher
The Wild Atlantic Way is 2,600km of west-coastal roads stretching from Donegal to Cork. It’s rugged, untamed and breathtaking. Fortunately for me, there was hardly any traffic on these remote roads so I could stop to take photos every 200 metres.
The Cliffs of Moher is a pilgrimage for road trippers and only an hour from Limerick and Galway (in a triangle), so we set off for here after brekky in just over an hour and spent another two hours wandering around admiring the views out to the Aran Islands and taking copious photos.
My suggestion would be to stay in Limerick another night and come back here after your day at the cliffs to have a little more time.
Pillow time: G Hotel
If I did this roadie again, I’d base myself in Galway for three or four days and take day trips from here (which could also include the Cliffs of Moher). The G is a glamorous hotel with a spa over the 2 top floors and really cool decor with art and rooms designed by milliner Philip Treacy.
It’s the cutest city I saw in Ireland with brightly-painted shops and pubs standing shoulder to shoulder along cobblestoned streets spouting off from Eyre Square. Buskers add to the ambience, or pop into a pub for a shindig and a pint. I also met some Kiwis over here playing rugby for Connacht under coach Pat Lam, so you’re never far from home.
From Galway it’s only a two-hour drive to Dublin, so take your time and stop when the mood strikes (or ask your concierge for tips).
Pillow time: Clontarf Castle
I’ve ended with Dublin again as you’ll probably need to be back here the night before you fly home. We stayed in the amazing Clontarf Castle on our final night. A real fair dinkum, honest to goodness castle. Of course it’s been totally made over into a hotel with cosy rooms and cool bars and a restaurant on the outskirts of Dublin.